Lonzo Ball isn’t going anywhere and neither is LaVar.
The helicopter sports parent is generally not a great look.
We generally don’t like the little league mom that cusses out a coach, or the dads that fight at high school football games. I mean, when was the last time you saw someone go after a ref and thought, “hey he’s got a point, that ref totally deserves this”? It’s cringe-worthy.
Plus, these type of things take away from the kids and set an example that only Frank Gallagher would approve of. After all, do you think little Kyle is going to be thrilled when he sees his Dad beating the piss out of the opposing team’s pitcher’s Dad? I’m sure a therapist’s ears just perked up as I was typing this.
Meanwhile, the rest of us completely flawless people wag our totally non-judgmental fingers at these people and clutch our pearls as they dare to show actual emotion when their kid playing.
Believe it or not, these parents don’t just disappear when you add millions of dollars, fame, sneaker deals, commercials, endorsements, etc etc etc into the equation. Yes, there are even those supposedly out of line parents at professional and college (*wink* not-professional *wink*) levels, and boy, do people not like them.
For the most part, we don’t hear about these louder parents. If it’s so wild that teams simply give up, that player typically finds himself out of the league fairly quickly. If they aren’t a top level talent, we might not hear about it at all because really, who cares if J.J. Barea’s dad is mouthing off (pretty sure he isn’t, but when’s the last time you thought of J.J.? There you go, now you’ve thought of J.J. Barea, NBA Champion and yes, still on the Mavericks)?
Most of the times we hear about parents of top athletes, it’s because they’re doing “classic mom” stuff we can all relate to and get a good old knee-slapper out of it. Oh, JaVale’s mom told Shaq to knock it off with the bullying? Oh, that’s so mom! Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s moms want them to put their differences aside? Moms know best, you tell ’em, moms!
But if one of those parents suddenly questions the team their child plays for?
Don’t even think about it.
Just ask Draymond Green’s mom, who has constantly been blasted for her unfiltered Twitter account, which both heavily supports the Warriors but has also criticized coach Steve Kerr in the past. My goodness, how dare she do the exact same thing that…uh…every single person with a Twitter account and basic cable do on a nightly basis.
If a parent goes even further and actually becomes a hype-man for their kid? Having the balls to publicly support their child and their athletic greatness, while maybe talking a little smack on the side?
Sweet-Christmas, we cannot allow it!
Earl Woods says that his son, Eldrick, will win 14 majors by the time he retires; we tell him to know his place and stay quiet. Well, his boy not only has gone on to win exactly 14 majors but also electrified the game of golf in ways that Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer couldn’t even begin to fathom, becoming an American icon in the process (I mean… for awhile).
Richard Williams sees that both of his daughters are generational prodigies, then acknowledges that fact; we fan our faces and try not to pass out from seeing a proud black man raise two equally proud black women. Oh, and those two women have only gone on to become two of the greatest athletes of all time, not to mention becoming two of the most recognizable people on the face of planet earth.
And most recently, we’ve gotten to experience the terror brought on by Lavar Ball, the father of UCLA freshman and future lottery pick Lonzo saying pretty much whatever he damn well pleases.
"He thought he was bigger than the program." — LaVar Ball on relationship with his sons' HS coach pic.twitter.com/yIWUjhs5Bg
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) March 29, 2017
Oh, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
LaVar has become a regular on Undisputed and its prettier-but-not-by-much friend First Take and has said, among other stuff: He could beat Michael Jordan in a game of one-on-one, Lonzo is already better than Stephen Curry and his sons (Lonzo and high school brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo) deserve a shoe contract worth at least $1 Billion over ten years.
That is some exemplary trash talk, and quite frankly, I can’t get enough of it.
The reason Earl Woods and Richard Williams were so widely criticized for their bold support of their children is more-or-less fairly simple: They were black men telling white men that for the foreseeable future, their sports were not only going to be dominated by African-Americans but going to be redefined by them. This is Golf and Tennis we’re talking about, sports with long and in some cases proud histories of racism, where fans and players believed there was a white way and a wrong way to play the game. Oops, I mean right. A right way to play the game. Silly me.
To some extent, you could see the controversy coming when it comes to Woods and Williams. These were black athletes breaking down doors in primarily white sports, there’s always going to be a certain percentage of people that simply can’t wrap their little racist heads around that.
With LaVar Ball, the mass-hysteria seems less logical.
This is basketball we’re talking about, a sport that didn’t evolve into the modern game until it found the playground, where shit-talking and swagger integrated itself into its DNA. Basketball relies on egos, it thrives on it.
I mean, look at some of noted white-guy Larry Bird’s stories, the king of smack talk:
Part of what makes basketball, basketball is the personalities. It’s Iverson stepping over Tyron Lue, or Kobe not even flinching when Matt Barnes pump fakes him. It’s Bird dropping 47 points while playing with only his left hand for no reason other than to see if he could do it (a feat which will never be duplicated, ever).
Stuff like that isn’t what gets remembered, it’s what becomes legendary.
Yet, LaVar’s realistically harmless smack talk has gotten torn to shreds. Fans and analysts, many of which have hat-hair from just taking off their Make America Great Again lids, have proclaimed he’s hurt Lonzo’s draft stock and teams won’t want to deal with a parent that could become such a massive distraction.
It’s impossible to get behind everything LaVar has said, but most of it can either be completely ignored altogether or to some extent rationalized.
No, I’m not here to tell you that it’s cool that he’s talking about LeBron James or his kids. None of the Ball boys have accomplished anything in the league yet, and it’s just not his place to be talking about LeBron’s kids.
BUT, LaVar does have a point in what he was saying when mentioning LeBron’s kid, essentially saying that having the name “LeBron James Jr.” is not conducive to a professional playing career. It’s not a bad take!
And no, I’m also not a fan of him calling out Steph or the coach at Chino Hills, where LiAngelo and LiMelo play high school ball. Again, none of the Ball boys have stepped foot in the league and there’s no need to be making enemies already, not to mention the fact that early coach killing isn’t necessarily the best track record for NBA GM’s to look at.
One more time…
BUT, does it really matter if he calls out a high school coach? The high school and AAU levels are notoriously scummy and if you think LaVar Ball blasting a coach publicly is the worst thing going on, have I got news for you! Plus, I have to believe that general managers aren’t shaking in their boots at the idea of having to deal with LaVar. You think someone like Magic Johnson, a man who has made billions off the court and millions on it, is going to have trouble controlling LaVar Ball? Is that a joke?
Even if GM’s were worried about dealing with Lavar, the consistent maturity of Lonzo has to be accounted for. Imagine that, actually looking at the player rather than his father!
Stephen A. Smith asks LaVar Ball if he's humbled after #UCLA failed to win the championship. His answer? No way.
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) March 27, 2017
Even with Cowherd trying to get himself a viral sound byte, Lonzo comes off as being mature and extremely self-aware. It’s almost hard to believe the man sitting to his right could possibly be his father with how different the two’s personalities are when in public.
SEGMENT OF THE DAY: LaVar and Lonzo Ball talk Sweet 16 loss to UK, pressure to be better than Steph and NBA Draft pic.twitter.com/zXonjn2tvD
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) March 29, 2017
He genuinely looks like he doesn’t want to be there, and teams love that Kawhi Leonard type attitude when it comes to the spotlight. For some reason, it’s frowned upon to actually show emotion and appear to be an actual human-being.
For my money, I think LaVar is playing us like an orchestra. I think he knows exactly how his own bravado highlights Lonzo’s softer spoken demeanor and isn’t afraid to play that card. I mean, look at that picture above, he looks like a classic WWF manager escorting his client to the ring. Bobby Heenan, is that you?
This is a man that appears to be acutely aware of what his boys can be in the NBA, and that’s something a lot of people lack. LaVar has a vision for what the Ball boys can be and the “I’m not racist, I just don’t like when people aren’t wildly conservative” crowd is not going to like it.
Remember, he wants to start with a $1 Billion shoe deal. Where do you go from there? Do they go after MJ and the Jordan Brand? LaVar wants the world for his boys and he isn’t going to hesitate to try and make sure they get it, which means we’re just getting started here.
First Take and Undisputed? Pshhhhhh, we’re talking about SportsCenter, Today Show, Good Morning America and Fox & Friends (just kidding about that last one). If LaVar gets it his way, Big Baller Brand will be the biggest basketball brand in the country.
So I hope you’re part of the group that likes LaVar Ball because he’s what we’re going to be talking about for the next decade. Sounds like a tough ten-year stretch if you don’t.